BFI Black Star: Carmen Jones

To tie in with their season focused around black actors, BFI release the classic Hollywood musical that featured the first African American performance to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar

This October, the British Film Institute (BFI) is presenting Black Star, the most substantial season in UK history devoted to black actors on screen. To tie in with the events programme, the BFI is releasing six Blu-rays of films that feature seminal black performances.

The first film to be released is Carmen Jones, a 1954 musical directed by the Austrian emigre Otto Preminger. Set during the Second World War, it tells the tragic tale of a hot-headed parachute factory worker who becomes tangled up with a seemingly charming young GI with a propensity for jealously.

A loose reworking of the ever-popular Bizet opera Carmen, it was a pioneering film in its use of black American rather than white American leads; the majority of the significant roles in the film are played by African Americans. For her performance in the lead role, Dorothy Dandridge became the first black actor to be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars.

The BFI release features the original film presented in HD, plus a newly filmed appreciation from film curator Karen Alexander and a feature-length recording of a 1996 interview with male star Harry Belafonte. Film critic Adrian Martin has provided audio commentary, while programmer Chris Fujiwara has written an illustrated booklet.